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Putin Report "attempt At Statistical Hypnotism" — Communist Lawmaker
Interfax - 4.11.12 - JRL 2012-68

MOSCOW. April 11 (Interfax) - Wednesday's report by Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin on his Cabinet's the four-year performance was "an attempt at statistical hypnotism," said one of the Communist Party leaders.

"For justice' sake, it must be pointed out that our suggestion that the head of government's speech should be a report rather than the setting of new tasks was on the whole heeded - the reporting part was tangibly large in size. However, we can't be satisfied with such a report," a Ivan Melnikov, first deputy leader of the Communist Party and first deputy chairman of the Duma, told Interfax.

"It was an attempt at statistical hypnotism, not a political or socioeconomic but a technical and bureaucratic analysis of the state of affairs - it was impossible to see the pile of problems behind the mass of figures," he said.

"Though the premier emphasized that they were objective indicators, we can't go to our voters with these kinds of reports because we, just as ordinary people do, look at real life, and one can't trace those increases by so many percent and by such-and-such a factor there," Melnikov said.

He claimed that this nature of the report was deliberate. "It is not the resources of the country that explain the acute problems, but the mechanisms of distribution of social benefits that are designed to serve oligarchs and bureaucrats," he said.

Furthermore, "the 'more than 2,000 newly established plants and manufacturing facilities' that were mentioned by the head of government are not as much a means of growth as a basis for exploiting hired labor and increasing the profits of private individuals," the Communist said.

Numerous statistics cited by Putin "have a hidden side to them," he said.

"We are being told that the reserve fund of the country grew by $36 billion during 2011, but bank officials say about $30 billion flew out of the country for the first two months of the current year alone," Melnikov said.

"We are being told that the demographics of the country are improving, but Rosstat (the State Committee for Statistics) claims that 20% more people died than were born in January this year," he said.

The situation in education, health care and arts "keeps rolling downward," Melnikov said.

"There has been some really unpleasant news as well. For example, it has become clear that a whole series of election campaign promises will narrow down to the minimum: student grants of 5,000 rubles (per month) will only be for those who are needy or make good progress in their studies, allowances of 7,000 (rubles) for the third child won't be for everyone but only in subsidized regions and only for the poor. We come to the conclusion that the social policy objectives will also be truncated in the classic Kudrin style," Melnikov said, having a go at former finance minister Alexei Kudrin.

"If one points out the positive elements, they include the proposal for support for municipal authorities with channeling new financial resources to that level. Then there's the realization of the acute problems of eastern Siberia and the Far East and the proposal for going back to the Soviet-era system of preferential benefits. Finally, there's the direct borrowing from the program of the KPRF (Communist Party) of the thesis about bringing the minimum wage up to the subsistence minimum within the next few years ," Melnikov said.

Unless the Cabinet that will take office when Putin is sworn in as president abandons the incumbent Cabinet's line, Russia's key problems will be "extremely difficult" to solve because "erosion will in that case been faster and more powerful than the efforts that are being made," he said.

Keywords: Russia, Government, Politics - Russian News - Russia


Vladimir Putin's speech in the State Duma marked the culmination of the "thaw" that has taken place in Russian policy during the past year. When the procedure for the prime minister's report was taking shape in the first years of Dmitry Medvedev's presidency, it was hard even to imagine that the future head of state would be interrupted by disapproving remarks and that an entire parliamentary party would walk out in protest during his speech.

However, Putin, who backed Medvedev's initiative to introduce this annual report, proved to be fully prepared for the new format of communicating with parliament. Not a single remark or even the most critical question caught him off guard or caused him to lose his cool.

But political analysts did not get what they truly wanted ­ they did not hear which ministers will step down and who will replace them. Putin merely mentioned that he will "change up the team" because that is what you do with ministers.

The hint of a deputy's question was clear ("there is an alternative to your entourage"). The way Putin began his answer ("I agree with you") gives us hope that at long last we will hear at least a few new names.

Nonetheless, Putin again displayed a major character trait ­ he does not betray his people. He did not scapegoat any unpopular ministers, and he replied in detail to critical remarks about specific ministries without hiding behind the copout about how a prime minister cannot know everything.

Interestingly, Putin responded to these political attacks in a liberal and sometimes even Western style. Is the Unified State Exam expensive and inconvenient? But such exams are used throughout the world. Do we want Russian diplomas to be recognized abroad? In this case we must adopt international standards.

Are there apprehensions about Russia's forthcoming entry into the World Trade Organization? Yes, some industries may suffer but "we won't modernize our economy without the WTO." Besides, WTO membership will not only force us to compete, it will also help us protect our producers abroad. And we should not avoid competition forever: "Until they sense real competition, they won't invest in modernization."

Putin responded as a pragmatist, without any misgivings about the West, even when confronted with the somewhat paranoid suspicions of the communists about the transshipment of cargo in Ulyanovsk for NATO forces in Afghanistan: "We don't want our soldiers to fight on the Tajik-Afghan border... Therefore, we should help them [the international forces in Afghanistan]. Maintaining stability in Afghanistan is in our national interests."

Probably only in one instance did Putin transcend the bounds of the liberal "mainstream" ­ the special significance that he attaches to everything that concerns the country's sovereignty, primarily its economic sovereignty.

Many of the successes of his tenure as prime minister that he cited were obviously met with skepticism from the audience, but he and the audience were unanimous on one achievement ­ the country has retained its right to sovereign decision-making.

Some may question this achievement. One tenet of the neo-liberal dogma of the 1990s was the conviction that economic integration and the expansion of the current (Western) world order automatically led to prosperity and democracy.

Putin was obviously struck by the example of destitute Greece, which the European Union simply did not allow to hold a referendum on unpopular economic reforms. It shows that this dogma has become obsolete. Democracy cannot be imported from abroad. No country automatically becomes democratic by joining some organization. Every country must build democracy on its own.

The atmosphere in the Duma when Just Russia deputies walked out in protest of the prime minister's "unsatisfactory" answer to the question about the "election crisis" in Astrakhan demonstrated that democracy is "gradually rising from its knees," to use United Russia's favorite phrase.

It seems that the former director of the Russian political theater, Vladislav Surkov, was not joking in a recent interview when he said that the de facto one-party rule that has existed in Russia since 2007 was a kind of a medical procedure that is now coming to an end.

Vyacheslav Igrunov, director of the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies and one of the founders of the Yabloko party, said: "Putin is ready to work in conditions of greater freedom of speech. He is sufficiently flexible and professional as a politician not to fear questions that were not submitted in advance. Indeed, it seems that Surkov's 'treatment' of the political system is coming to an end. But the trouble is that it was administered in a prison hospital and the patient, who was kept in the same position for five years, is weak and cannot do much on his own. The opposition does not have real ideas on running the country. It is ready for a confrontation with the government and is consumed by an endless desire to find out which opposition members are real opponents of the authorities and which are not."

The tough questions of Just Russia party leader Sergei Mironov, who voiced his protest by not even waiting for Putin to respond, and his party's endless attempts to push through the issue of political reforms show that it is time to stop regarding the party as a mere Kremlin invention.

In his responses Putin did not make any specific promises about democratization, but his words sounded like a kind of guarantee that the achievements of Medvedev's presidency would be consolidated. "The law has been adopted and we must abide by it," Putin said about the new law allowing parties of 500 members or more to register.

He did not expand on his idea for a "presidential filter" for the gubernatorial candidates nominated by political parties. Importantly, Putin did not demand that governors be "united" in following United Russia. He merely mentioned the need to ward off separatists, nationalists and quasi-criminals.

This was the practice in Boris Yeltsin's time. Suffice it to recall the saga with mayoral elections in Nizhny Novgorod or the blocking of Anatoly Bykov's attempts to rule the Krasnoyarsk Territory.

So, as far as democracy is concerned, it seems we can congratulate ourselves on the return of an improved version of the "wild '90s."

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